George Costanza, in his infinite wisdom, once said, “When you look annoyed all the time, people think that you’re busy.” Of course, employing this tactic got him a promotion with the New York Yankees, the most renowned team in pro sports. So he must’ve been on to something.
No one looks annoyed more frequently than Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine, who is bringing his team to MetLife Stadium to open the 2015 season against the Jets on Sunday afternoon. Do a Google image search for and by the fifth pic his scowl will have you so far back on your heels that you’ll be apologizing to your smartphone screen for disturbing him. The guy next to Pettine in the portraits section of his high school yearbook is -- captured for posterity -- shuddering.
Perhaps that’s why I always liked Pettine when he was the Jets’ defensive coordinator for four years under Rex Ryan. Considering how annoyed he always looked, I figured he must’ve been really busy constructing ingenious schemes to thwart opposing offenses. The numbers seemed to agree initially, as the Jets had the NFL’s best defense in Pettine and Ryan’s first year with the team, in 2009, and again fielded one of the staunchest defenses in 2010.
Then, over the next two years, Gang Green’s defense grew far less effective. This was surprising, because Pettine still looked incredibly agitated all the time. Maybe it had something to do with the utterly forgettable Aaron Maybin being their best lineman in 2011 and the utterly immortal Darrelle Revis missing just about all of the 2012 season with a knee injury.
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Pettine than moved on to Buffalo, where he somehow appeared even more annoyed while at the helm of the Bills’ defense. It’s hard to blame him. After all, it’s Buffalo. And then it was on to Cleveland, for his first NFL head coaching gig. I think for a millisecond or two he cracked the slightest of grins at his introductory press conference. But the scowl soon returned. Hey, Johnny Manziel would’ve sent Mother Theresa over the edge.
But somehow, the first-year coach coaxed seven wins out of his Browns last season, despite a QB situation that was even worse than the Jets’. I’m not sure if the NFL Coach of the Year award has even gone to someone with a losing record, but I think Pettine should have made it to Canton after the 2014 campaign.
Most prognosticators are slotting the Browns at the bottom of the AFC North this season. Based on personnel alone, I can’t argue. But I’ve got faith in Pettine -- or maybe I’m just scared to death of him. Either way, I think he’ll get more victories out of his team than he should.
All that said, I don’t think he’ll win on Sunday. The Jets may not have the talent to beat really good teams this season, but I think they’ll play smart and hard enough not to lose to the fair-to-middling ones, especially at home. Looks to me like they start off 2015 with a W.